Leadership Seacoast recently hosted its Arts and Culture Day for the Class of 2013. By all reports it was a highly successful and interesting day, despite the frightful weather. Participants talked to influential leaders from organizations that are integral to the cultural and economic success of the Seacoast area, including The Seacoast Repertory, Pro Portsmouth, Discover Portsmouth, the Gundalow, and others.  I walked away from the day thinking about some things I learned:

  • Ticket prices only cover just 1/3 of the cost of the seat to any show.
  • Like traditional for profit businesses, nonprofit arts organizations are continually reinventing themselves, creating diversified revenue streams to supplement their income and ‘spread the eggs from one basket’.
  • Collaboration and partnership between business and the arts is increasing.
  • The Seacoast is rich in arts and culture – and identified as an important aspect of our quality of life.
  • Seacoast Repertory Theater, our hosts for the day, is celebrating its 25th year – a significant milestone not only for this organization, but for arts and culture in general. According to the Seacoast Rep’s Knate Higgins, the lifespan of a nonprofit arts organization is only 2-4 years, on average.
  • There is a tremendous commitment and passion shared among the staff working for these institutions.  Many of them do what the need to do – to do what they love to do.

Nonprofit arts organizations contribute $41.5 million to the Portsmouth economy, according to Van McLeod, Commissioner of the NH Department of Cultural Resources. This at a time when  consumers’ discretionary incomes are limited by economic uncertainty. The poverty simulation during Health and Human Services Day (DATE) is a tangible reminder of the financial challenges that many in our region juggle on a daily basis.

As I think about all I learned, heard and saw during Arts and Culture Day, I wonder about the impact of decisions made by consumers, businesses and the arts.

… if businesses and the local economy benefit from arts and culture organizations, are arts and culture organizations benefitting from the economy and local businesses?

… as consumers make decisions on where to spend their (sometimes limited) resources, what will the impact be to arts and culture in the region?

What do you think the future holds for the arts on the Seacoast?